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Costly warBy J. Daryl Byler, MCC Washington Office Director
October 15, 2002
The article below will appear in the November/December issue of the Washington Memo. For more information about the MCC Washington Office, or to order a subscription to the Washington Memo, visit: http://www.mcc.org/us/washington/index.html
During the next several weeks, the U.S. Congress -- and perhaps also the United Nations -- will likely authorize the use of military force against Iraq. Some predict U.S. military action will occur as soon as late November. Only a miraculous change of events will stop a war now.
Lost in the build-up for this war has been any serious admission by the Bush administration of the short- and long-term consequences of an unprovoked, preemptive U.S. attack on Iraq. Even though the United States has overwhelming military power, this will not be a Aquick and easy@ war as it is sometimes portrayed. The costs will be many.
Heavy casualties. Most serious analysts expect massive casualties of U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians -- especially if the war is fought on the streets of Baghdad. In addition, yet another wars devastation on an already fragile Iraqi infrastructure will contribute to extensive postwar suffering and death of innocent civilians and children.
Regional instability. Many who have testified at congressional hearings admit that, even if the United States is successful in overthrowing the current Iraqi government, it could take years of U.S. occupation and tens of billions of dollars to rebuild Iraq or even to keep it from unraveling. Furthermore, a U.S. invasion of Iraq will likely create violent ripple effects throughout the Middle East.
Dangerous precedent. Preemptive military action sets a dangerous example. Will this new "strike before struck" standard apply to all countries who are afraid, or just to the United States? If other nations follow the U.S. lead, we can expect a rapid increase in regional wars and global unrest.
Damaged relationships. In preparing for war, the president has announced the U.S. position and threatened to act alone if other countries don=t support it. This growing and troubling propensity to play superpower solitaire will surely create even stronger anti-American sentiment.
Given this gloomy forecast, what can Christians do?
Our witness to government must be confidently rooted in the belief that God is sovereign and can frustrate the best-contrived plans of the nations (Psalm 33:10). God puts a stop to wars (Psalm 46:9). In Christ, God has disarmed the rulers and authorities (Colossians 2:15). Their power is more limited than they may think.
Still, God calls us to act as partners for peace (Psalm 34:14, Matthew 5:9). During the month of September, more than 17,000 Mennonites signed a letter to President Bush urging him to consider nonviolent alternatives to a military invasion of Iraq. On Sept. 12, Mennonite Church USA leaders James Schrag and Susan Mark Landis met with a White House staff expert on Iraq to express the church=s concern about war.
On November 10, Peace Sunday, Mennonite and Brethren in Christ congregations will be invited to fast, pray and discern what additional peacemaking steps to take.
At this point, preventing a war will require a miracle. But, after all, we are people of faith!